Turlock spoiled Hilmar High’s season home opener on Tuesday night when they traveled eight miles down the road for a friendly preseason battle.
For Hilmar, it was an opportunity to contest against a local and legitimate Division I opponent before the beginning of league. Turlock was coming off a big 3-0 sweep of Tracy West and an undefeated record was on the line.
After a very competitive and ultra-aggressive contest from both sides in the first four games, which resulted in back and forth play, the Bulldogs ultimately pulled off a sensational and thrilling victory in the final minutes to win it 3-2, (19-25, 25-20, 25-21, 10-25 and 16-14).
“That was a fun game, battling out with them because it was a good matchup. Turlock is a good team and that definitely had some playoff atmosphere of a feel to it,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “That is one of the things were working on is stabilizing since were up and down.”
“It’s one of the best feelings a coach can have is to have their team down then come back and win it, it doesn’t get any better,” said Turlock head coach Amber Castillon after being down 11-14 in the final game.
Turlock sophomore, Julia Handy, who has been a difference maker since she stepped on the varsity court as a freshman last year, finished Tuesday’s game with a game-high 48 assists to go with her four kills and two aces.
“We made some key changes and we kind of just came together as a team because when you’re in a situation when you’re down, you can’t lose composure,” said Handy. “Our team did a good job staying together and not breaking down.”
Tuesday’s game was nothing short of an intense volleyball matchup as each side was eagerly anticipating the start, despite an hour delay.
It was Hilmar who came out and was steady in the first game, winning convincingly by six points after Turlock’s slow start behind some great powerful plays from Emily Baptista and Mariah Ahid.
Baptista would eventually end the night with a team-high 22 kills and a game-high six aces. Ahid notched four blocks to lead her team.
Once Turlock settled, despite the home crowd noise, they came into their groove immediately when the second game started and the Bulldogs notched back-to-back wins in the second and third games, by five then four points.
“When the fans cheered, we said it was for us and that helped us because it didn’t get in our head,” Handy said. “It also helped that I am from Hilmar, so it was an inter rivalry between them and us after losing to them last year.”
Hilmar was not having any of it, however, and outscored the Bulldogs in arguably the ugliest game of the night for Turlock, 25-10 in the fourth.
The momentum carried into the fifth and final game as the Yellowjackets had outscored Turlock, 39-21 at one point [with the addition of the fourth game] but that was it.
“We are trying to find the mojo in the court but when we find it and have it… it’s like wow, very apparent and then other times the energy drops and we ease up,” Harris said. “We need to work on consistency but as the year goes on we will get better just like everyone else.”
Turlock’s lone timeout of the fifth game came when the team was down 5-8 but coach Castillon let her team play on and down 11-14, the Bulldogs gave all they could with a force as they rallied behind Emily Romo, Jadyn Tubbs and Handy to win it.
Romo would eventually end the game with 13 kills, three aces and two blocks while Tubbs tallied a game-high 24 kills and two aces.
“They just have so much heart,” Castillon said of her team. “I don’t think there was one thing that could’ve been said; they have a strong desire to win, and even when we were having a very off night. They came through, I am very proud of them.”
Turlock is now 7-0 to begin the year, currently ranked number three in the state according to Maxpreps.com.
“I think it’s a really good win for our program,” Handy added. “Hilmar has been so successful recently, having been Section runner-ups so if we go down in a game, we won’t be rattled since we have been in this situation—big win.”
Hilmar, who is now 5-4 for the year will next take on another Central California Conference foe in Atwater High at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Turlock’s next game will be at home against Sonora at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.